What is the Caliphate?
The Caliphate (khilafah) is a unique political system from the ideology of Islam that bears no resemblance to any of the Muslim Governments today. Although many commentators and historians have tried to interpret the Caliphate within existing political frameworks, it is in fact a unique political system, built upon a concept of citizenship regardless of ethnicity, gender or creed that is totally opposed to the oppression of any religious or ethnic grouping.
Caliphate is not a dictatorship
The Caliph (khaleefah) is the name given to the head of state in the Caliphate. The Caliph's authority to rule must be given willingly by the people through a special ruling contact called bayah. Without this bayah he cannot be the head of state. This is totally opposite to the post of a King or Dictator who imposes his authority on the people through coercion and force. The tyrant Kings and Dictators in the Muslim world are ample examples of this, imprisoning and torturing their own people and stealing their wealth and resources.
This bayah contract stipulates that the Caliph must be just and rule the people by Islamic Law (shari'ah). He is not sovereign and cannot legislate laws from his own mind that suit his personal and family interests. Any laws he wishes to pass must be derived from the Islamic legal sources through a precise and detailed methodology called ijtihad. If the Caliph legislates any law contrary to this or commits oppression against his people, the highest and most powerful court in the State called the Unjust Acts Court (mahkamat muzalim) can impeach the Caliph and order his removal from office.
Caliphate is not a theocracy
The Caliph has been likened to a Pope, who is the Spiritual Head of all Muslims, infallible and appointed by God. This is not the case as the Caliph is not a priest. His post is an executive post within the Islamic government. He is not infallible and can make mistakes, which is why many checks and balances exist to ensure he and his government remain accountable.
The Caliph is not appointed by God rather he is elected by the people and assumes authority through the bayah contract. The Caliphate is not a theocracy since its legislation is not restricted to religious and moral codes that neglect the problems of society. Rather shari’ah is a comprehensive system that legislates on ruling, social, economic and judicial matters to name but a few. Economic progress and enhancing the living standards of the people is one of its major objectives. This is totally opposite to backward, medieval theocracies found in Europe where the poor were oppressed and forced to work and live in squalid conditions in return for the promise of heaven. Historically the Caliphate was a very wealthy state with a flourishing economy, high standard of living and world leader in industry and scientific research for many centuries.
Caliphate is not an Empire
The Caliphate does not favour the state's capital or any of the lands it rules over above any others. Nationalism and racism have no place in Islam and are totally prohibited. The Caliph can be from any race or colour and from any school of thought such as Sunni or Shia as long as he is Muslim. Historically the capital of the Caliphate moved as the State expanded. Medina , Kufa, Baghdad , Damascus and Istanbul have all been capitals of the previous Caliphate, and the Caliph's have been from many different tribes and races. As for the Caliph being Muslim, the head of state in any country must believe in the ideology or law being implemented. This is usually embodied in the oath of allegiance sworn by the head of state when taking office. This is why as an example a Communist could never be accepted as the US President.
Rights of non-Muslims
Non-Muslims have an honourable status in the Caliphate. Non-Muslims are referred to as dhimmi (people of contract) in the Caliphate, which means they enjoy the full rights of citizenship. The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
He who harms a person under covenant, or charged him more than he can, I will argue against him on the Day of Judgment. [Narrated by Yahya b. Adam in Kitab al-Kharaj]
The rights of non-Muslims are enshrined within statutory Islamic Law (shari'ah) and cannot be reversed by legal precedent or the whims of any government. This provides stability and security to the non-Muslims allowing them to live their lives without fear of losing their rights some time in the future. Contrast this with western governments who are introducing more and more draconian anti-terror legislation targeting the Muslim community in the name of combating terrorism and national security.
Imam Qarafi (Classical Islamic Scholar) summed up the responsibility of the Caliphate to the dhimmi when he said:
The covenant of protection imposes upon us certain obligations toward the ahl al-dhimmah. They are our neighbours, under our shelter and protection upon the guarantee of Allah, His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), and the religion of Islam. Whoever violates these obligations against any one of them by so much as an abusive word, by slandering his reputation, or by doing him some injury or assisting in it, has breached the guarantee of Allah, His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), and the religion of Islam. [Shaha al-Deen al-Qarafi, Al-furuq]
The Caliphate cannot force or pressurise any non-Muslim to become Muslim. Churches, Synagogues and Temples are all protected by the Caliphate. Those who follow a religion can practise their religion without interference or harassment from the police and authorities. The government will not threaten to close places of worship or spy on the worshippers and sermons as the British government is doing.
Historically, when the Caliphate was ruling Jerusalem , it protected the holiest Church in Christianity. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The keys to this church have been held for centuries by the Nusseibeh Muslim family who until today still open and close the doors on a daily basis.
Accountable Open Government
The Caliph and his government believe in Islam and their motivation for strictly adhering to the letter of the law is their belief in accountability for all their actions when they die. This belief will create trustworthy and responsible politicians, not politicians who say one thing and do something else. They are chosen for their merit rather than due to ‘political favours'. Having said this, members of the government are not divine and can make mistakes and can commit crimes. For this reason a strong and effective accountability process exists through an independent judicial court called the Unjust Acts Court (mahkamat muzalim), which has the power to impeach any government official including the Caliph if they breach their ruling contracts and commit injustice.
Each Muslim has a responsibility in accounting the Caliph and his government. The action of accounting is one of the best and noblest tasks in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
The best of Jihad is to say a word of truth before a tyrant ruler.
Therefore anyone in the State whether they are individuals, members of political parties or in the media, has the right to account and criticise the Caliph. They cannot be arrested or criminalised for speaking out as we find happening to many people in Britain, such as Walter Wolfgang the 82 year old man who dared say the word “nonsense” during the foreign secretary Jack Straw's speech on Iraq in September 2005.
Consultation is one of the pillars of ruling and a House of Representatives (majlis al-Ummah) will exist in the capital with regional assemblies in the provinces of the Caliphate. This is an elected house consisting of men and women from all religions and ethnic groupings within the state.
Unlike in Democracy, this House of Representatives is not a legislature. The only resolutions passed by the House that are binding on the government, are those related to the practical implementation of government policy and those related to removing government officials. The House acts as another counterbalance to the executive powers of the government.
The House has the right to account the Caliph regarding all the actions that the state has executed, whether domestic or foreign, financial, military or the like. Also the House can pass resolutions expressing dissatisfaction with the Governors, Mayors and Assistants (mu'awin), and the Caliph must remove them.
The Rule of Law
The Caliph does not have immunity from prosecution and nor do any of his Cabinet. If any of them commit a criminal offence they will be taken to court and tried before a judge. The judge applies the sentence without regard to their status or government position. Even the Caliph can be impeached and removed from office if he violated his ruling contract (bayah).
The Caliphate cannot suspend habeas corpus by interning any of its citizens. It is has been reported on the authority of Abdullah ibn Zubayr in the hadith book Abu Dawood:
The Messenger of Allah has ordered that the two disputing parties should sit before a judge.
Therefore any citizen whether Muslim or non-Muslim must be brought before a judicial court and their case investigated by a judge. The detaining of ‘foreign terror suspects' without trial for years in some cases would never happen in a Caliphate.
The burden of proof required to convict someone of an offence in an Islamic Court is far higher than in the West. The court does not accept circumstantial evidence as a legal proof, and only trustworthy witnesses, whether Muslim or non-Muslim are allowed to give testimony.
Many miscarriages of justice have occurred in Britain due to flawed forensic evidence such as the Birmingham six trial or due to convicted criminals giving testimony. Confessions are investigated to ensure they were not extracted under duress or torture as is prevalent in Muslim countries today.
The Presumption of Innocence exists in an Islamic Court and the onus is on the plaintiff to provide the evidence. This legal principle cannot be overturned by the government of the day, as Tony Blair is trying to do by introducing more summary offences. Narrated in the hadith book by Al-Baihaqqi, the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
It is the plaintiff who should provide the evidence, and the oath is due on the one who disapproves.
All these legal principles are exemplified in the famous legal trial that took place between Caliph Ali and one of his Jewish citizens in the 7th century. The Jew stole a coat of armour from Ali so he took the matter to court and brought his son as a witness. The judge ruled against Ali even though he was the head of state (Caliph), stating that a son cannot be a witness for a father in court. When the Jew witnessed such fairness he voluntarily confessed that he stole the shield and embraced Islam.
The Caliphate's currency is based on the Gold Standard providing economic stability for domestic and international trade, as well as low inflation. There are no interest rates so wealth is created through investment as opposed to savings. This investment led economy where wealth is constantly circulating coupled with a stable currency will produce strong economic growth, and low unemployment.
Private companies cannot own natural resources such as oil and gas. These are owned by the people and managed by the government, with their revenues going to the Treasury (Bait ul-Mal). Revenue gained from natural resources must be used for the interests of the people, and the House of Representatives will advise the government on where the money is spent.
Taxation in the Caliphate is on excess wealth and not income, and there are no regressive taxes like VAT. The only taxes on companies are the agricultural land taxes (ushur and kharaj) that are a percentage of the agricultural produce or the land value. Non-agricultural companies do not pay this. Muslim owned companies will also pay the alms tax (zakat), but non-Muslim companies are exempt from this.
Non-Muslim men must pay a nominal tax called Jizya that gives them full citizenship rights, exempting them from National Service and taxes specific to Muslims such as zakat . Jizya is means tested and there are different bands for different levels of wealth. Caliph Omar imposed three bands for the Jizya tax - 4 dinars (£108) for the rich, 2 dinars (£54) for the middle class and 1 dinar (£27) for the poor. The Jizya tax rate is much lower than that of zakat, therefore the tax burden of non-Muslims is lower than that of Muslims in the Caliphate.
The Caliphate does not have National Insurance to pay for health care, pensions and other state benefits. A modern efficient Health Service must be provided free of charge to the people. This includes free dental care, optician costs and prescriptions. There are no pensions or state benefits as such within the Caliphate. All pensioners, women, children, unemployed and those with disabilities must be provided for financially by their families. Only if they had no family or the family cannot provide for them will the government then intervene.
Non-Muslims will not be isolated in to ghettos, with poor housing and low government funding. Muslims and non-Muslims will live together side by side, as neighbours in the community. Neighbours have many rights over each other, designed to keep the home and community a place of peace and tranquillity. A place where children can play safely without fear of abuse. Nuisance Neighbours and yobs roaming the streets are a growing problem in Britain due to selfishness and individualism. Muslims do not hold these ideas, and instead believe in responsibility to their neighbours and community. It has been reported on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar and ‘Aishah in the hadith books Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
Jibril (Angel Gabriel) kept recommending treating neighbours with kindness until I thought he would assign them a share of inheritance.
People cannot distress their neighbours by playing loud music, growing high hedges, parking irresponsibly or even backbiting them. They must enquire about their neighbour's welfare and aid them as much as they can.
Anti-social behaviour on the streets is not tolerated and Inspectors (qadi hisbah) with the power to impose immediate sentences will patrol the neighbourhoods, accompanied by Police. Pubs and clubs that sell alcohol are prohibited and there is a strong punishment for those found drunk and disorderly on the streets. Non-Muslims however can drink and trade alcohol amongst themselves as long as it remains in their private homes and bars.
Caliphate is not a Police State
The Caliphate cannot intrude on peoples private lives by spying on its Muslim or non-Muslim citizens and arbitrarily detain people and hold them in prison without trial. Torturing anyone including prisoners of war is absolutely prohibited, and the perpetrators will face a severe punishment. Any evidence obtained via torture or wiretapping is not legally admissible in an Islamic Court.
Right of expression exists within the Caliphate. People are free to criticise the government and bring them to account for their actions and they cannot be arrested or imprisoned for this. Criticism and expressing opinions must be done within the limits of decency and respect. Lying, slandering, false accusations and blaspheming of any religion, member of the public or politician will not be tolerated. This allows for constructive, respectful debate within the society without the divisive and degrading reporting prevalent in much of the western press. The demonising of Muslims within the western press and the publishing of blasphemous and insulting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) are just some examples of this.
The Caliphate does not go to war based on lies and deceit. Its sole purpose in fighting a war is to remove injustice and bring a new system for the people to live under. Although America and Britain cited the same objectives in Iraq the reality is far from this. Their use of depleted uranium, torturing and killing of civilians and imposition of another corrupt system would never happen with the Caliphate. Historically the Caliphate won the hearts and minds of the people on the lands it occupied. It never mistreated them and as opposed to an Empire, it didn't impoverish them in order to enrich the capital.
A famous example of this from Islamic history is below.
After getting on peaceful terms with the people of Syria and collecting the dues of the Jizya and the Kharaj , news reached Abu ‘Ubeida that the Byzantines had amassed their troops to attack him. The effect of this was great on Abu ‘Ubeida and the Muslims. He sent messages to the rulers of cities with whose citizens he had made peace, asking them to return to their subjects the paid dues of the Jizya and Kharaj with an instruction to tell them: ‘We hereby return to you the money you have paid us, because of the news of the enemy troops amassed to attack us, but, if God grants us victory against the enemy, we will keep up to the promise and covenant between us.' When this was delivered to the dhimmi and their money returned to them, they told the Muslims: ‘May God bring you back to us and grant you victory over them!'
The Caliphate's army must follow strict rules of engagement when fighting war (jihad). The soldiers do not fight the enemy out of anger or hatred, but to please their creator – Allah. Hence, atrocities committed by US troops such as the infamous 1968 My Lai massacre of 500 villagers in Vietnam or the recent massacre of two dozen Iraqi civilians by US marines in Haditha would not happen under a Caliphate. In the Battle of Khandaq 627CE, Ali (who later became a Caliph) was about to kill one of the enemy soldiers when the soldier spat in his face. Instead of killing him, Ali lowered his sword because he didn't want to kill him out of anger. This is an example of the high values held by soldiers in the Caliphate's army.
The Caliphate is not isolationist and must abide by the international agreements it signs. It will encourage non-Muslims from other countries to visit it, study in its universities and conduct trade. Economic and cultural treaties will be signed to facilitate this. Any non-Muslim visiting the Caliphate from a country that the Caliphate has a treaty with, can enter without the need for a visa. They are called a Mu'ahid and have full protection under the state similar to the dhimmi. Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
The one who kills a Mu'ahid (people with whom the State has treaties) without right he will not smell the fragrance of jannah (heaven) even if its smell was forty years travelling distance. [Reported in the Hadith book Ahmed]
Historically scholars and scientists from across Europe flocked to the Caliphate and studied in the universities of Cordoba, Cairo and Baghdad.
Caliphate is a mainstream view
The aspiration of restoring the Caliphate is not a minority view held by extremists and terrorists as all Muslims believe in the idea of a Caliphate or Imamate as Shia refer to it although both are synonymous.
On January 14th 2006, the Washington Post published an article ‘Reunified Islam: Unlikely but Not Entirely Radical' by Karl Vick. The article heading was “Restoration of Caliphate, Attacked by Bush, Resonates With Mainstream Muslims” and he quotes many ordinary Muslims in Turkey traditionally the most secular country in the Muslim World. 'I wish there was a caliphate again, because if there was a caliphate all the Muslims would unite,' said Ertugul Orel, in a sweater and tie at the sidewalk cafe he owns outside Istanbul's vast Hagia Sophia, an iconic building to both Christians and Muslims. ‘There would be one voice. But I know neither the American nor the Europeans will ever allow it.’ From the next chair, gift shop owner Atacan Cinar added, ‘Before the end of the Ottoman Empire , there was no problem in the Islamic countries.’ ‘The concept of the caliphate is very much alive in the collective memory of society,’ said Ali Bulac, a columnist and author of several books on Islam and Turkey. ‘There is absolutely nothing to keep Muslim society together at the moment.’
Majority of Muslims want the Caliphate
The Centre for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan published a survey in 2005 entitled Revisiting the Arab Street in which they interviewed numerous population samples throughout the Middle East. Some of their conclusions clearly highlight the desire of Muslims in the Middle East to live by the Shari'a in a Caliphate. Quoting from the survey it,
Asked whether Shari'a should be the only source of legislation, one of the sources of legislation, or not be a source of legislation, most Muslims believed it should at least be a source of legislation. Support was particularly strong in Jordan, Palestine, and Egypt, where approximately two-thirds of Muslim respondents stated that the Shari'a must be the only source of legislation; while the remaining third believed that it must be 'one of the sources of legislation'. By comparison, in Lebanon and Syria, a majority (nearly two thirds in Lebanon and just over half in Syria) favoured the view that Shari'a must be one of the sources of legislation.
The report continued:
In contrast, neither education nor age seems to explain attitudes toward the role of the Sharia in legislation. Pooled data from Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt indicate that 58% of respondents with low education, 59% of those with moderate education, and 56% with higher education believe that Sharia must be the only source of legislation in their countries. Similarly, the pooled data found that approximately 50% of respondents in all age groups wanted to see the Sharia become the only source of legislation, another 36-40% across age groups wanted to see it as a source of legislation, and 10-13% preferred that the Sharia not become a source of legislation.
These are just some aspects of life under a future Caliphate that will make it a force for promoting good within the world. Clearly this vision completely contradicts what many western commentators, thinkers and politicians such as Tony Blair would have us believe. The restoration of the Caliphate will usher in a new era of peace, stability and prosperity for the Muslim world and beyond, ending years of oppression by some of the worst tyrants this world has ever seen such as Islam Karimov of Uzebkistan and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and finally solving the long running problems of Palestine, Iraq, Kashmir and Chechnya to name but a few.